As NATO pulls back, Afghans worry about Taliban's return
As NATO presence recedes, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan Province and Kunar Province has some Afghans concerned.
Kunar Province, Afghanistan
To the relief and concern of many Afghans, the end of international military involvement in their country is in sight.Skip to next paragraph
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By August, the first US troops will have left Afghanistan as a start to the gradual drawdown, Canada will have ended its combat mission here, and the responsibility of security for seven areas throughout the country will have transitioned to Afghan security forces.
But as the foreign presence recedes, the situation in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan and Kunar provinces may provide a window into some of the challenges that lie ahead. And despite strong antiforeigner sentiment here, many Afghans worry about whether government forces can maintain stability as NATO draws down.
The Taliban's return
US forces have withdrawn from a number of bases here since 2009, but now residents say these areas are effectively under Taliban control. Insurgents based in Afghanistan are now launching attacks in Pakistan, straining international relations.
US and NATO forces say that while some remote areas may be experiencing problems, they can’t stop every incursion. Instead, they say they hope that by focusing on key areas they can create stability in them that will gradually spread to outer-laying areas.
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Situated along the eastern border with Pakistan, the provinces of Nuristan and Kunar have seen some of the most violent battles in Afghanistan. In October 2009, insurgents nearly overran a US outpost in Nuristan. The hard hit units located in Korengal Valley in Kunar Province were made famous by the award winning documentary film "Restrepo."
But in late 2009, the US and NATO began closing outlaying bases in an effort to concentrate their forces on protecting population centers in the south as opposed to remote, rural areas. There is now no permanent NATO presence in Nuristan. Last year, US forces closed two bases in Kunar Province and handed one over to Afghan security forces. The Taliban have used this to their advantage, calling the departure proof that NATO forces have lost.